In memory

Dr. Alan Theodore Prince
Dr. Alan Theodore Prince

Remembering Dr. Alan Theodore Prince

October 7, 2015

We were saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Alan Theodore Prince, who was at the helm of the Atomic Energy Control Board (the CNSC’s predecessor) from 1975 to 1978.

Dr. Prince received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Toronto. He did his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago. After graduation, he worked at the National Research Council in Ottawa and various federal agencies in roles of increasing responsibility before joining the AECB for three years – a deceptively short period of time given the events that occurred.

During this time, communication with the Canadian public became an AECB priority, which remains central to the CNSC today. The AECB placed renewed importance on the nuclear sector’s accountability for its decisions. Consequently, The Nuclear Liability Act came into force, the Canadian Safeguards Support Program was initiated, the Nuclear Control and Administration Act was tabled in the House of Commons, and radioactive contamination cleanup initiatives were implemented.

Towards the end of his term, Prince faced a challenge that surpassed anything else associated with this defining era in the history of Canada’s nuclear sector. On January 24, 1978, a nuclear-powered Soviet surveillance satellite, COSMOS 954, re-entered the atmosphere, scattering radioactive debris across a 124,000 km2 expanse in the Northwest Territories. COSMOS 954 was launched in September of 1977. Shortly after the satellite was launched, NORAD detected decay in the satellite's orbit, which caused it to crash.

Operation Morning Light
Royal Canadian Air Force Crew, Operation Morning Light in 1978

By design, the COSMOS 954 was intended to eject its nuclear reactor into space in the case of an emergency. The ejection feature failed, and highly radioactive debris was dispersed in northern Canadian regions, from Great Slave Lake to northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Canada and the United States coordinated a cleanup initiative named Operation Morning Light. At the peak of the search for radioactive debris, over 200 people associated with Operation Morning Light were working in the affected region. The AECB was responsible for retrieving and handling radioactive materials, and for conducting environmental and health assessments.

The COSMOS 954 satellite crash was a significant event in Canada's nuclear regulatory history. Members of the AECB, accustomed to working behind a desk, were pulled to the front lines to manage this crisis, an event one CNSC employee coined “the AECB's grand adventure”.

Fortunately for the AECB and for Operation Morning Light team, most of the COSMOS 954’s reactor core was eliminated during re-entry into the atmosphere. However, by October 1978, over 4,000 flakes of radioactive debris were recovered from the region, including core fragments. It took nine months, 4,500 hours of flying time and nearly $14 million to recover from the COSMOS 954 crash.

As a result of the COSMOS 954 incident, international nuclear policies were drawn into question. Canada, the United States and several European countries called for the prohibition of prohibit satellites from containing radioactive material. In November 1978, the United Nations authorized its Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space to establish a working group to study nuclear-powered satellites and increase the safety of this technology in the exploration of space.

Dr. Prince died on October 2, 2015, at 100 years of age. His legacy will not be forgotten.

Dr. Richard Osborne
Dr. Richard Osborne

Remembering Dr. Richard Osborne

October 5, 2015

On Tuesday September 29, 2015, the nuclear community lost Dr. Richard Osborne, a pioneer of radiation protection and health physics.

Dr. Osborne was the founding president and the driving force behind the constitution of the Canadian Radiation Protection Association (CRPA) and its incorporation into the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA) as an associate society in 1979.

His career spanned over 35 years, from Research Officer to Director of Health Sciences at the Chalk River Laboratories, when he joined Atomic Energy of Canada Limited in 1963.

Dr. Osborne was an exemplary scholar and advocate for radiation protection.

He was the first recipient of the CRPA’s Founders Award in 1989 and received the prestigious Sievert Award from IRPA, made in recognition of outstanding contributions to radiological protection, in 2012.

Dr. Osborne’s illustrious career is highlighted in his IRPA profile.

As the pioneer of the CRPA, his legacy within the radiation protection community in Canada and abroad will not be forgotten.

Dr. Agnes Bishop
Dr. Agnes Bishop

Remembering Dr. Agnes Bishop

The CNSC looks back at the contributions of Dr. Agnes J. Bishop, a driving force in both the medical and nuclear community Dr. Bishop was the first woman to be physician-in-chief at the Children's Hospital of Winnipeg in 1985. She was also the head of Pediatrics at St. Boniface General Hospital, and the chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Manitoba where she specialized in pediatric hematology and oncology. Her vast skill and knowledge in the fields of pediatric hematology and oncology would lead the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in seeking her to be the first woman to be selected for presidency; however, she declined the position to take on the responsibilities here, as president of the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) in 1994 and then the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) until 2001.

Under her guidance, Dr. Bishop led the AECB's transition to the CNSC under the Nuclear Safety and Control act. Recognized even by the then Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, for her renowned reputation as a capable leader he said "By appointing a highly respected physician to the position, the government is emphasizing its commitment to health and safety…  We look to Dr. Bishop for leadership in ensuring that the use of nuclear energy does not pose an undue risk to health, safety, security and the environment."

Dr. Bishop also lead the AECB/CNSC in achieving a number of other significant accomplishments. In September of 1994, not long after her appointment as president, Dr. Bishop signed the Nuclear Safety Convention on behalf of the Government of Canada. She was also responsible for ensuring that the Canadian nuclear sector was prepared for the turn of the millennium.

Dr. Bishop, who passed away in May 2014, was acknowledged not only for her talents and leadership in her field but was also recognized for identifying each member of the CNSC as important. 

Dr. Bishop's relationship to the individual members of the CNSC was the same as with her patients, as well as with Canadians in general –dedicated, passionate and sincere. From her practice as physician-in-chief to her presidency of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, her focus was always the safety and care of those she looked out for.

Dr. Sylvia Fedoruk
Dr. Sylvia Fedoruk

Remembering Dr. Sylvia Fedoruk

September 28, 2012

On September 26, 2012, the nuclear community and Canadians at large lost a pioneer in the field of nuclear medicine, an acclaimed athlete, and an inspiration to women in nuclear, politics and sport. Dr. Sylvia Fedoruk was an innovator, and the contributions she made to the nuclear sector are a proud part of our history.

Dr. Fedoruk was the first female board member on the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB), the predecessor of today's nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. A member of the AECB board from 1973 until 1988, Dr. Fedoruk addressed the challenges that arose following the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Along with her fellow board members, she prioritized transparency and communication, redefining the relationship between the nuclear sector and the public.